ORLANDO, Fla. - Investigators
said more than two dozen people are responsible for shipping and selling high-grade marijuana from California throughout central Florida.
They said the operation was being hidden in hotels where thousands of tourists stay every day.
Investigators with the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation said the drugs were being delivered to hotels in the International Drive area, including the former Peabody Hotel. They said the drugs were delivered along with deliveries meant for families staying at the hotels.
"Is this a main supply to Orlando?" Channel 9 reporter Karla Ray asked MBI director Larry Zweig.
"Absolutely. They were bringing in hundreds of pounds. We've identified more than 500 pounds that were shipped here to Orlando," said Zweig. "They were trying to hide the shipments sending it to a tourist area thinking that law enforcement wouldn't be looking for it there."
Investigators said at least 26 people were involved in the drops. They said 21 of them lived in central Florida.
According to many of those involved in the drug ring posed as tourists, hiding in the crowds on International Drive and just spending a night away from home in a hotel room.
"It was pretty smart, pretty
ingenious . Who knows how long they were getting away with it?" said Zweig.
They said the scheme didn't stop in the tourist district. According to investigators the drugs were taken to a number of neighborhoods, including a gated community in Casselberry, an apartment complex near the University of Central Florida and to a quiet neighborhood in Casselberry.
"Those were locations that were being used to stash hundreds of pounds at a time where it could be distributed out from there," said Zweig.
Investigators said they found more than marijuana at the apartment near UCF.
"The local group that was here was also dealing in cocaine, heroin, synthetic Molly," said Zweig. "So they were kind of a one-stop shop when it came to drugs."
Investigators said they believe the group has been operating for a year or more.